Chapter 1 - What is a Bog and Why Should We Conserve it?
Published at : 15 Oct 2020
Video produced by Tailored Films.
Please visit www.raisedbogrestoration.ie for more information
During the last ice age, Ireland was covered in snow and ice. When the ice melted, lakes formed. Plants grew around the lakes. After many years, they died and sank to the bottom of the lake. After hundreds of years, the lake became full of dead wetland vegetation. This transformed into what’s called a fen. New plants such as sphagnum moss, began to grow on the surface of the fen. Over thousands of years, the sphagnum moss died and accumulated, and peat began to form. At this point, the fen became a bog. Trees began to grow on the bog and later died. As the peat accumulated, the bog grew higher, like a dome. It became known as a raised bog.
Bogs are really valuable for historians to help them learn about our past. A bog is high in acidity and can preserve items for thousands of years. Many items have been found in bogs still intact, such as manuscripts and even bodies!
Raised bogs are extremely valuable wetland habitats. Bogs act as natural carbon sinks. This means that they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The plants on the bog absorb the carbon, and when they die, the carbon is stored as peat.
Bogs are also an extremely important ecosystem and provide habitat for many of Ireland's plants and animals. The natural wetness of the bog is what makes these habitats thrive.
Sphagnum moss is an example of a plant which needs waterlogged conditions. It is probably the most important plant on the bog and is known as the 'bog builder'. Sphagnum moss is incredibly absorbent and can hold up to twenty times its own weight in water. Over time, layers of moss grow, and when it dies and decays, it decompose into peat. An active bog is one which is peat forming, one where sphagnum moss is growing.
The bog is also home to many of Ireland's most beautiful plants, such as bog cotton, lichens, bog asphodel and even cranberries. These plants have had many uses over the years. Lichens, for example, were used to colour clothing, before modern dyes were invented. Other plants are thought to have antibiotic properties. During World War 1, sphagnum moss was collected from the bogs and sent over to France to treat wounded soldiers.
One of the most interesting plants that lives on the bog is the sundew. A carnivorous plant, it’s leaves that are covered in up to 200 red tentacles. The glands produce a sticky substance which attracts many insects. It is thought that the insects mistake it for nectar. The substance traps the insects and the entire leaf bends over to engulf the insect and digests their body parts. This process can take up to two days. The sundew plant consumes about 5 insects a month.
Many insects make their home on the bog. A large number of butterflies reside here. They are attracted by the wide variety of plants. Damsel flies and dragonflies also love a wet environment and are often seen flying about. Many spiders including the rare web-funnel spider also make their home on the bog.
Aside from insects, the bog also provides habitat for a large number of birds. Snipe are very common. Other species like skylark are also found here.
A huge number of animals also live on a bog. Frogs thrive in a wet environment and are often found on a bog. Bogs also provide a home for our only reptile, the common lizard.
Hares are also widespread and can often be seen on a bog. On a rare occasion, if you’re lucky enough, you might see a fox prowling about.
The bog has many benefits, from providing an insight into the past for archaeologists, to storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, to providing habitat for our wildlife. They are also part of our heritage and something we all need to be proud of. Coillte's Raised Bog Restoration project is dedicated to restoring and protecting such natural wonders as bogs. It is up to the people of Ireland to ensure that the positive legacy of the project lives long into the future.